Women of the World Wednesday: Sarah Vaughan (1924-1990) was born in Newark, New Jersey. She grew up around music—her father was a guitar player and her mother sang in their church. Vaughan studied piano and played the organ at church. She appreciated gospel and the classics, but she was also drawn to jazz. After seeing her friend take the runner-up position at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Vaughan entered and won first place.
She then took her first professional job with the Earl Hines big band in 1943. She also performed with celebrity musicians of the time, including Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Sarah had a great working relationship with the Earl Hines band, a comradery that helped the band face racial segregation and bigotry. Sarah was not, however, as fortunate to find steady relationships when it came to love. She often mixed love with business, and as a result was left with jilted feelings and loss of money.
From the 1940s through the 60s, Sarah toured and played in clubs such as New York’s Café Society. She mixed pop hits with jazz albums, in order to mitigate risk professionally while still expressing herself creatively.
While Sarah was unique from the other female jazz musicians of her time—not as polished-looking as Lena Horne, or clear-sounding as Ella Fitzgerald—she possessed a musical intelligence that was dramatic and memorable.
Source: "Sarah Vaughan." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. Biography in Context. Web. 2 July 2014.
Image by William P. Gottlieb, Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division (negative) Library of Congress Music Division, LC-GLB23- 0882